Anikar M. Haseloff
Using public Internet facilities in order to access information and communication technologies (ICT) is the main model of use after the more common models of home use (individual ownership) and access at work or at school/university. Especially in developing countries, public and shared facilities help to create desperately needed access and are a main strategy in several Internet access programs. In the context of public access, cybercafes play an important role as the most common Internet access model, especially in the urban areas of India. It is often argued that cybercafes could help bridge the digital divide, as they provide Internet access to people who cannot afford to have Internet connections at their homes or who need help in order to make use of ICT. The following article will take this assumption as a starting point and will present findings from empirical research on cybercafes in urban India. The research was conducted in order to explore the problems and potential of cybercafes as development tools for different urban communities. In order to examine these relationships, the reach of cybercafes, the users of cybercafes and the usage patterns have been examined. This study is part of a doctoral thesis and the following article presents some of the findings. The article has to be seen as a preliminary report on ongoing research, and it presents some of the data collected to date in order to help build understanding concerning this complex access model and its importance for urban India.